Plenty of potential for area swimmers

Steve Lukco looks at his roster, not as big as in years past, but one that he knows could make it through with a handful of swimmers to next weekend’s district meet.

This weekend, it’s all about getting out of the Division I Akron Sectional Meet Saturday. The Division II meet is today.

The Warren G. Harding coach wants his team to swim lifetime bests and swim its fastest at the end of the season.

“We talk about putting the work in at the beginning of the year and all through the season, that when it comes to prepare for the championship meets (we’re ready),” Lukco said. “We like to say the money is in the bank, now we’re going to pull it out and see what we can buy with it, buy some speed.”

Sophomore Brendan Leecue leads the boys side with good times in the 100-yard butterfly and 100 backstroke. He’s better in the 100 backstroke, with one of the top times in the district.

Sophomore Tino DiCenso looks like he has a shot of advancing in the 100 breaststroke, while freshmen Joe Criazzo and Matthew Vencel have outside chances — looking more to improve for next season.

On the girls side, junior Lydia Walls returns as a district qualifier and could eventually break through to state in Canton as a 50 freestyle and/or 100 butterfly swimmer. Junior Katie McBane is doing well in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke.

Then, there’s junior Mia Mowatt-Larssen, who is coming off a two-week session in concussion protocol after a skiing accident. She’s in the 200 and 500 freestyles, but is a wild card after missing the past two weeks.

Freshman Sydney Lukco, Steve’s daughter, has a shot in the 200 freestyle.

Those four girls make up the 200 and 400 freestyle relays, and Lukco believes WGH has a better chance in the 200 free relay.

Steve said his best-case scenario is taking four girls and three boys, but he’s got a bit of a problem. They’re all well-mannered and academically sound, but that doesn’t always translate to postseason swimming.

“They’re a real nice bunch of nice kids,” Lukco said. “We’ve got to put that part away. It’s time to get mean. You got to learn how to put the niceness away that you’ve cultivated all your life of being a great young adult and now get down and dirty. You got to fight for that spot. We’ve got to get mean. We don’t have that mean streak. We’re just too nice. I guess that’s a good problem to have, but it’s a still a problem.”

Also in Akron, but in Division II, there are more Trumbull County representatives looking for district bids.

Brandon Staley is the Hubbard swimming coach, but he also mentors athletes from Howland, Liberty and Niles. They all swim at the Hubbard Community Pool and are eyeing next week’s district competition.

A couple of freshmen from Liberty, Olivia Benson (50 and 100 freestyles) and Andrew Riser (200 individual medley and 100 butterfly), are having solid seasons. Benson has a shot at state in the 50 free.

Sophomore Declan O’Hara from Hubbard has a shot in the 200 IM.

The biggest contingent is from Howland, with sophomore Corinne Daniels (50 and 100 freestyles), freshman Mia Pantalone (50 and 100 freestyles), junior Caitlyn Mindek (200 IM, 100 butterfly) and junior Isabelle Daniels (500 freestyle).

For the boys, there’s freshman Jared Mindek, who races the 200 IM, and has a chance at state in the 100 breaststroke.

The girls 200 freestyle relay of Corinne Daniels, Pantalone, Isabella DeMalio and Mackenzie Karabin, and the 400 freestyle relay of Pantalone, Corinne Daniels, Isabelle Daniels and Karabin can also advance.

“We’re really ready to make a name for ourselves with these programs that are up and coming again,” Staley said. “I’m excited to see what they can do. Districts is next in our eyes.

“We have some kids that are looking at states and those schools haven’t sent anyone to state in a very long time. It’ll be very exciting to keep moving forward.”

The Boardman teams have some of the area’s best swimmers and are looking forward to making the postseason trek all the way to state. They start today and Saturday at the Division I sectional in Canton.

The Spartans are led by the area’s top four male swimmers in seniors Kyle Kimerer and Callen Aulizia, along with sophomores Noah Basista and Matthew DunLany.

Kimerer is the school record-holder and is in the top 10 in the state in the 200 freestyle. He also does well in the 100 butterfly.

Aulizia is quick in the 50 and 100 freestyles, while Basista has the school record in the 200 IM and goes fast in the 100 breaststroke. Aulizia tied a school record in the 100 freestyle.

DunLany is quick in the 500 freestyle and the 100 butterfly.

However, the four are some of the best in the state in the 200 medley relay and 400 freestyle relay.

Senior David Giancola, sophomore Jordan Stackpole, along with juniors Mason Rassega and Will Linker are in the 200 freestyle relay.

As for the girls, Jenna Markovitch, Mikel Flatley, Alison Kuras and Alyssa DiNapoli are in the 200 free relay, while Sarah Murray replaces Kuras in the 400 relay.

“All signs are good right now, but anything could happen between now and then with the flu going round,” Boardman coach Terry O’Halloran said. “Staying cautiously optimistic.”

Also in Division I, Austintown Fitch’s Gia Direnzo should move on in the 100 backstroke.

The Poland 200 girls freestyle relay should move on in Division II at Akron.

From Canfield, Kamran Sarac, Cullen Brady, Matthew Peckman, Bobby Kutsch and Jason Paris have a chance to move on in different events and relays in Division II.

The six automatic qualifiers in Division I come from three D-I Northeast Sectional meets and the four automatic qualifiers in D-II come from two Northeast D-II Sectional meets. All at-large qualifiers come from the next fastest respective swimmers to make fields of 40 and 30 swimmers depending on gender and division and 20 girls’ and boys’ relays in all divisions.

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